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June 18, 2024

Nine strategies to improve your productivity

Chances are you sometimes feel like you’re not firing on all cylinders at work. The possible causes are endless, but they include illness, sleep deprivation, temporary or chronic overwork and a lack of motivation. The upshot is that your productivity level plummets to next to nothing – and, of course, this always happens at the worst possible time. So what should you do?

What to remember

    • To improve your productivity, understanding your personal rhythm and adapting your work accordingly is essential
    • It’s a good idea to establish a routine and get into certain habits

When your productivity falls, try to identify the causes before throwing yourself into a frantic search for solutions to the symptoms. How to approach this introspection is not the topic of this article, but you should bear this point in mind before reading the productivity strategies set out below.

1. Learn to understand your own rhythm

Contrary to popular belief, it’s not always the early bird who catches the worm. Some people are more productive in the morning, whereas others come into their own later in the day. With that in mind, it might be useful to find out which group you belong to.

Instead of forcing yourself to work when you’re not on top form, identify your ideal work times and plan your timetable according to your biology. Reorganising your day based on when your energy levels peak is a simple way to work smarter not harder. While not everyone has the freedom to arrange their workday as they see fit, most people can make a few changes.

For example, you can stop pumping yourself full of caffeine and other stimulants in an effort to stick to a rhythm that doesn’t suit you. Take a notebook and write down how you feel at different times of day over a period of two or three weeks. That way, you can objectively identify when you’re at your most productive and reorganise your schedule accordingly, tackling the most difficult tasks when you feel best and saving the simplest tasks for your “low” points.

Your work environment plays a major role in your productivity.

2. Optimise your work environment

Your work environment plays a major role in your productivity. If your office is uncomfortable or full of distractions, it’s hard to concentrate and stay productive. Light, green plants, fresh air, ergonomic furniture and a calm atmosphere are all potential productivity boosters, but it’s up to you to find out what works best.

And if nothing does the trick? Try a change of scenery! If you’re able to work from several different places, change it up a little. A new setting can be enough to shift your mindset towards your work.

3. Write a to-do list

Sometimes, the sheer volume of work you need to get done leaves you feeling discouraged and unproductive. Breaking your work down into small tasks is a good way to get your motivation back. Write a list of small steps you can accomplish in turn rather than letting yourself feel overwhelmed by the scale of your project. Here are some simple steps to follow:

    • break your project down into several specific tasks;
    • create a list of top-priority tasks;
    • decide and note down where and when you will accomplish each task;
    • review what you’ve achieved at the end of each day, taking the time to appreciate everything you’ve crossed off and transferring anything that’s still left to do to the next day.

However long you procrastinate, there’s only one way to put an end to the vicious circle: get to work!

4. Just get started

We all know the feeling of having an article to write, an email to send or an urgent report to finish, yet somehow finding it impossible to knuckle down. But however long you procrastinate, there’s only one way to put an end to the vicious circle and that’s getting to work.

Instead of setting yourself unachievable productivity targets, just knuckle down without overthinking it. Simply making a start stimulates the reward circuit in your brain. In other words, your brain feels satisfied with having already accomplished part of the task – even a tiny part. It will therefore encourage you to keep going to feel the same sense of gratification again.

5. Stop doing several things at once

The human brain is not made for multitasking. It’s only ever effective when it can focus on one thing at a time. People who carry out several tasks simultaneously have a significantly shorter attention span and therefore lower productivity.

Instead of succumbing to multitasking, concentrate on one thing at once. That’s also one of the reasons why it’s useful to write a list of tasks and the order in which they should be done. One task after another!

Avoid spending your break glued to your smartphone, which consumes intellectual resources rather than recharging your batteries.

6. Take regular breaks

Forcing yourself to work without sufficient breaks lowers your productivity. It’s better to work fewer hours in a better state. So don’t shy away from taking regular breaks during your workday to give your brain time to relax and recharge. A few minutes is enough, provided it’s an actual break. Getting some fresh air outside, for example, rests your brain. On the flipside, you should avoid spending your break glued to your smartphone, which consumes intellectual resources rather than recharging your batteries.

7. Listen to music

Music is now recognised as a productivity booster. If you want to concentrate, take your headphones and pick out some tunes – ideally instrumental background music. One of the reasons why music increases productivity is that it drowns out distracting noises around you and helps you stay focused on the task at hand.

8. Avoid distractions

Your brain adores anything new. It loves to learn and is constantly on the lookout for new information. That’s why it prompts you to frantically check your inbox or jump from one article to another on social media. Needless to say, this insatiable curiosity leads to distraction and cognitive fatigue. To put an end to this information-seeking behaviour, close all the windows on your computer apart from the one you’re using, turn off all your app notifications and leave your phone out of reach.

9. Establish a routine

People who manage to get into a routine, by which we mean a stable work schedule, tend to be more productive. If you can establish a routine tailored to your ideal work pattern, you should be able to stick to the written plan you prepared in advance. That way, you make progress, which is gratifying. Your brain encourages you to continue, fuelling a virtuous circle.

There are several strategies to improve your productivity at work. We would recommend combining them for the best results. If that’s still not enough, you could also consider using a productivity app, provided that you see it as a means to an end and not an end in itself. Good luck!